Doing the Lime Jelly with Nietzsche

On: October 8, 2007
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About Paulien Dresscher
Before receiving her MA New Media at the University of Amsterdam in 2007, Paulien Dresscher gained her BA Video Art and Media at the Minerva Academy in Groningen in 1994. Since then she is working as an independent artist, editor and filmmaker and is teaching at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Since 2009 she is E-Culture adviser of the filmfund.nl. Currently she is enrolled at UvA's international research master Media Studies program. Paulien Dresscher is living with her husband and daughter on a sailing ship in the center of Amsterdam.

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http://www.dresscher.nl    

Life Planetarium cosmic stars by Virtual Media planets tai chi relax chill
Inspire Space Park – Ultra chill space destination in Shinda
Shinda 60, 201, 218 (PG) inspire space park

Would Nietzsche have liked it? Probably yes. Doing the Jelly at Shinda, a planetary in space located in Second Life, where you can tai-chi, float and slowdance while snowflakes worn on pelvis shattering around and where indeed, God is very much dead.
In his first book, Die Geburt der Tragodie (The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music) Nietzsche discusses the Greek tragedy.

Lets first define tragedy:
is any event with a sad and unfortunate outcome,
a form of drama defined by Aristotle characterized by seriousness and dignity and involving a great person who experiences a reversal of fortune (Peripeteia).

Nietzsche traces the origin of tragedy from the complementary Apollonian and Dionysian qualities in art and argues that Greek tragedy arises out of the fusion of those elements.
With these elements I will examine this new virtual world, Second Life.
How can we see this tragedy evolve through Apollo and Dionysus? Apollo can be taken as a symbol of measured restraint and Dionysus as ecstasy. In Shinda, you find this mixture of form and substance on the one side (the wonderful planets, galaxy’s, animations) and music (all kind of internet radio and life streams), soundeffects, conversation, lightdesigns on the other. Together they accomplice to be a powerful combination where people love to meet, play, create, dance, interact.

Lets look at the terms first. What is Apollonian and Dionysian? Apollo is the god of the Sun, lightness, music, and poetry and Dionysus is the god of wine, ecstasy, and intoxication. This contrast between Apollo and Dionysus symbolizes a metaphysical principle of individuality versus wholeness.
The term Apollonian can be interpreted as dream state, individuation, plastic arts, beauty, clarity, self-control, creation and the celebration of appearance or illusion.
Dionysian stands for: intoxication, celebration of nature, instinctual, intuitive, pertaining to the sensation of pleasure or pain, individuality dissolved and hence destroyed, wholeness of existence, orgiastic passion, dissolution of all boundaries, excess, human being(s) as the work and glorification of art, destruction. These two sides are easy to find in the virtual world of Second Life.
The comparison between Nietzsche’s Greek parable and Shinda Space seems obvious. In Second Life we are living like gods. There is no death or illness, we create the world and ourselves and last but not least, we fly! Besides, also in succession of the inhabitants of the Olympus, we quarrel, envy, love and hate. In Douglas Gayeton’s My Second Life, Molotov Alfa is in search for the Second Life’s creator. He leaves his beautiful wife, rolling-stock and terrace with oceanview to undertake this search for his holy grail, the creator. In his quest, he is passing all different kind of inhabitants, children, monsters, dragonflies and strange communities. Finally, he discovers that the creator he was looking for does not exist but instead, every single person he meets is a creator. Everyone can be his of her own personal god. That’s the treat in this world.

For Nietzsche Dionysus promised real salvation from suffering, by letting one be absorbed into the great community of the unconscious. Existential suffering is a product of the individual who thinks he is suffering alone. In second life you are most definitely not alone. Making friends is easy, sustaining friendships as well. Usual habits bothering us in real life like ugliness, sore feet, nothing to wear, shyness, language problems, living in isolated places are solved here. As long connected to the web you can be where, who and with whom you want to be. And while at it, music is all around you, to help you into the state of unconsciousness. Music is a key concept for Nietzsche, as is in its highest degree a universal language. This universality allows it to connect to the Dionysian essence. Music surpasses all other arts with its power to access the will directly, without attempting to copy the phenomena of the will.
In Shinda you can experience this musical force in the orbital meditation (really recommendable): Click the ball and you will be thrown in space. Put on the music loud and keep pressing the arrow button on your keyboard. Planets and stars now spinning around while you are weightlessly moved trough the galaxy. It’s a druglike experience while being sober. You can call Second Life the modern version of the Greek theater. It is a distraction and a social event, but gives you also new perspectives on life and the self. Besides its characteristics as timekiller it’s a place to experiment on identity and taboos.

The Apollonian constraint and the Dionysian Bacchus seem to contradict at first sight. But in fact you could say they form an intellectual dichotomy. The constraint makes possible the total immersion. Because only a few senses are being used in this virtual world, these are highly sensitive. The bodilessness makes the mind extremely open to all kinds of input. The emotional availability is enlarged when being a regular member of an Internet community. The tragedy born out of this, turns out to be so fulfilling, that it almost beats real life. For some people it’s hard to break away from it and real life seems to perish in favor of the second. To some, communication In Second Life is so intense, that relations upthere can feel more meaningful than those downhere. Regina Lynn, columnist from Wire did put it this way: “the psychological aspects of relating are magnified because the physical aspects are (mostly) removed”. Meantime, the physical sensations can be extremely strong and recently this is also being researched in out of body experiences.

Because of these elements, Second Life can be extremely addictive, the same way drugs can be. It’s just not physical but mentally. Being online 15 hours a day in this community is not uncommon. Time flies, work does not get done, deadlines are missed, even holidays canceled and marriages break down. It seems like we need to grow up in this new worlds before we can handle this highly immersive application of our life. The next generation, growing up with online communication and interactive narration may be better at this. And till then, we have to explore: What do we gain by all this wonderful, worryful timeconsuming complicating online living? By means of the Apollonian we enter the Dionysian and therefore find an escape from the real life restrictions. We are able to create a new form of stories. Adventures, build out of the database possibilities: Am I man, woman or butterfly, where do I live, where do I build my house, who are my friends, what will I tell them (and what not) whom do I choose to be. The constant perfection of the self, tested in an inworld environment, but protected by certain anonymity, which makes us free. Maybe Second Life is a tragedy. But. Don’t we love this?
And Nietzsche? Well, I’m sure he loved tragedies as well.

One Response to “Doing the Lime Jelly with Nietzsche”
  • October 8, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    The part of the virtual life becoming more important or addictive than real life, made me think of another Nietzsche quote:

    He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

    Translated to the screen it could mean that while you reside in the virtual world, it starts to take over, or at least, flow into your real life.

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